Tag Archives: New Orleans Saints

Falcons/Saints, It Runs Deep

It may be underrated nationwide, but make no mistake about it, the rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints is as nasty as any in pro sports, maybe sports period. Put quite simply, there may not be two fan bases that hate each other more than the Falcons and Saints.

What started as an innocuous rivalry between two awful franchises who essentially knew that their best chance for satisfying victory every season lie with each other, has developed into a full on 365 day a year cacophony of vitriol, disdain, and pure disgust.

For each person they have a different reason and story for when the hate truly blossomed from a healthy dislike mixed with a tiny bit of compassion into a full-blown disgust for anything relating to the other. I know the very date for me, I know the very place I was sitting, I know the very company I was with, and unfortunately, ESPN likes to constantly remind me of it on a regular basis. Not to mention, so do Saints fans.

You could add up my hatred for the Busch boys, for Jim Leyritz, for the Yankees, the Gators, and the Cowboys, and you’re still essentially putting Pluto next to Jupiter when you compare it to the level of contempt held for the Saints.

I had my hatred for this team, this city, and this state confirmed a couple of weeks ago. I decided to dine at Just Loaf’n. I went due to the fact that there was a scout mob for it, and I’m a cheap bastard. Additionally, in a cruel, cruel twist of fate, and quite possibly God’s cruelest joke on me, cajun food is my absolute favorite cuisine. It’s really not fair.

But I digress.

In any event, I walk into this little restaurant and proceed to the counter to make my order. I’ve never had a muffaletta so I decided this place had the look of something resembling authentic cajun food, so that’s what I ordered. Of course they have no muffaletta bread. So, still trying to stay in the spirit of true cajun food, I order the alligator po’ boy. And of course, they didn’t have any alligator.

So here am I at the counter, my first two options not available, and I’m thinking to myself, “this is why I hate New Orleans”. And if any of you have seen me in a drive through, or at a restaurant when a waiter to comes to take my order, you know I absolutely hate making on the spot decisions about food when I feel rushed. So, it’s safe to say, at this point, I’m not in a very comforting situation. So I make a hurried decision and go with the basic shrimp po’ boy. I’m flustered at this point, so I just out of natural reaction, hand my card over to the lady behind the counter.

Forgetting to use the scout mob. Which was the only reason I’d have set foot in what is turning out to be a truly God forsaken place.

But it gets worse. Upon paying for my food, which was twice what I was expecting, I turn to the right, by the counter, and see one of the most awful creations in the history of man.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

At this point, I’m like, “Okay God, I get the message, never step foot in New Orleans. I hate it. It hates me. We’re on the same page here”. But no, my punishment wasn’t over yet.

After the less than memorable meal, well memorable in that the special “cajun fries” tasted like they’d been reheated in a microwave, I went to the gas station next door to procure a Mountain Dew.

On Monday morning, while going to work, with said Mountain Dew in my bag, I noticed that my bag seemed to be leaking, and I couldn’t understand why. That is, until I opened and realized everything in my bag (and if you know me, you know I CANNOT STAND when my magazines get crinkled, much less wet, or soiled) was submerged in Mountain Dew. The plastic top to this particular Mountain Dew was punctured, and while laid on its side in my bag, the contents of the bottle poured into my bag, creating a small pond that goldfish could have happily survived in. If only because I assume swimming in a sea of Mountain Dew is a pretty awesome thing.

It took a matter of seconds to remember where I got this Mountain Dew.

Fuck New Orleans.

And while the Saints do have their ring, and I am happy for like one Saints fan on this planet for that happening, though, the joy is tempered the longer we go without one, we still have more wins in this rivalry (49-43), the longest winning streak (10) and the most lopsided victory (55 points). We’ve also won three of the last five and are fresh off a sweep.

So, keep your bounty gate tainted ring New Orleans. When we get one, and we will, you can shut all the way up.

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But before I conclude, I leave with you my 15 favorite games from this underrated, under appreciated tale of two cities.

  1. 1991 NFC Wildcard Game: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 20 in New Orleans – Denying the Saints their first playoff win another year, IN New Orleans?
  2. 1973: Atlanta 62 New Orleans 7 in New Orleans – most lopsided margin of victory in series history
  3. 1991: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 20 OT in New Orleans – It denied the Saints a share of the 2nd best record in the NFC, and set the stage for our beating them in the Superdome just one month later in the playoffs
  4. 2010: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 24 in New Orleans – Overtime games in this series will be the death of me, but overtime wins in their building give me life
  5. 1995: Atlanta 19 New Orleans 14 in Atlanta – Jessie Tuggle, “The Hammer” with an interception near the goal line to seal it. My first in person experience of the Falcons/Saints rivalry
  6. 2002: Atlanta 37 New Orleans 35 in New Orleans – New Orleans, meet Michael Vick
  7. 2008: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 20 in Atlanta – New Orleans, meet Matt Ryan
  8. 2004: Atlanta 24 New Orleans 21 in Atlanta – I was there for this one too when Vick found Crumpler in the endzone late for the game winning touchdown
  9. 1980: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Beating those guys by 27 in their building during the 1980 magical season? Yeah, c’mon with it.
  10. 1981: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 10 in New Orleans – Following that up by beating them by 31 the next year
  11. 1982: Atlanta 35 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – second largest margin of victory in series history
  12. 1981: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – the first of consecutive home shutouts against the Saints
  13. 2005: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 31 in New Orleans  – Blowing the lead with 46 seconds left hurt, going down the field to reclaim it with :04 left was exhilarating.
  14. 2012: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 13 in Atlanta – national television defensive dominance of Payton and Breezy boy
  15. 2014: Atlanta 30 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Osi waving goodbye to the Saints while strolling into the endzone in their building to finish off the sweep? Give me more of that please.
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NFL Power Rankings: Falcons Top Team; Comments on Saints; NFC North Best Division Despite Lions Atrocious Defense? Steelers Done?

1.  Atlanta- Finally, a change of identity, even though the personnel has been screaming for it for a while now, and look at the results. Atlanta has led by at least 20 points in each of its first three games. That’s what good teams do. Even more impressive, they completely put away the two games they played on the road….. in different time zones.

2.  Houston- You could almost call the Texans 1a, as they have the same league leading point differential, but there is one huge deficiency in this team right now that keeps it a spot below Atlanta; special teams. Consider that on three of five kick returns, Trindon Holliday hasn’t made it back to the 20. Worse, Shayne Graham has just 7 touchbacks in 18 kickoffs. Those field position issues add up against good teams.

3.  Baltimore- You know Baltimore is kicking themselves for the way they lost to the Eagles, but the win over New England, especially after a very poor opening of the game, and the Ravens have established themselves as a prime contender. The big difference is the offense this year is getting the job done and performing at an elite level.

4.  San Francisco- Expect Jim Harbaugh to use the loss to Minnesota has a nice teaching tool. Everyone was ready to anoint the Niners as the best team in the NFL after week two. I think the 49ers players were too. I know people were talking about this defense as easily being the leagues best unit after week one, but it’s been surprisingly mediocre thus far in the season.

5.  Green Bay- First they open the season in San Francisco, then we have the replacement debacle. For all that, they went out west against what was expected to be two of the top defenses in the league, and should have won at least one. People forget that against Seattle, Aaron Rodgers had to use a kickers ball on the two point conversion play, and a bogus roughing the passer call wiped out an interception that would have set the Packers up in good scoring position and iced the game. People say it shouldn’t have been close enough for a hail-mary to win the game, and they’re right.

6.  New England- The Arizona loss was disappointing. But to Bill Belichik the loss to Baltimore was the most maddening. Maybe it was because his defense allowed almost as many passing yards to the Ravens as it had allowed in the first two games of the season combined. Facing a quality offense, the Patriots surrendered over 500 yards of offense. That definitely will make for an angry Hoodie.

7.  Arizona- Don’t tell me this is because I’m not buying them. Don’t tell me because I think Miami could potentially beat them this week that I’m not buying them. I fully expect the Cardinals to be around the entire season. But I also know that Kevin Kolb has yet to prove himself as a consistent game manager, as he has successfully been thus far this season. It’s not the defense that needs to show me anything. I just need to know Kolb can keep enabling the defense to force teams into submission.

8.  Chicago- The offense, it has it’s obvious problems. They can’t protect the guy under center, and truthfully, if you’re a Bears player, do you really want to “protect” Jay Cutler? Okay, in the spirit of winning football games, yes. The offense has been dreadful, but no team in the NFL has a better combination of defense and special teams. Even Jay Cutler can’t keep this team from contending all year.

9.  New York Giants- As long as they have Eli Manning, they’re going to contend and be very good. Eli may never put up the gaudy numbers his elder brother has, but he may ultimately be better remembered. The Giants defense has shown some holes, anyone who lets the Bucs score as many points as they did has questions. And, it’s not like the Cowboys offense has been on fire in their two games following the season opener. But generally speaking, Eli and company find ways to win ballgames. No team in football gains more yards per drive than the Giants do.

10.Minnesota- Am I crazy? Don’t forget how close this team is to being 3-0. Okay, it’s equally as close to being 1-2. That said, the one game in which there was no doubt? It came against the 49ers when everyone thought they were head and shoulders above everyone else the best team in the NFL. The Vikings at the moment don’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but they’re solid in most every phase. If there’s one area of their game that could use some substantial improvement, it would be the running game. And that isn’t far fetched to foresee as Adrien Peterson continues his return form a torn ACL.

11.Seattle- They’re 2-1, but everyone in their right mind knows they deserve to be 1-2. That said, they had a chance to win late at Arizona, and defensively dominated the Packers for the first half on Monday night. Offensively, they don’t really have a clue, and eventually that will probably catch up to them. But for right now, you’d be hard pressed to argue that many more than 10 teams in the league are better.

12.Denver- Denver wins at Pittsburgh to open the year and then proceeds to drop two in a row, but only a combined 12 points to the two best teams in the league. So, let’s keep the shovels away from Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The AFC West looks like anything but a treacherous gauntlet, so Denver isn’t going away.

13.Dallas- The Cowboys should be weekly ranked compared to the Cowboys teams of previous weeks. It is absolutely impossible to get a feel for this team, and as long as the coaching staff and core talent remains in place, it will stay as such. They can be world beaters one day, embarrass themselves the next week, and then scratch out a hard fought victory over a team they should have beaten easily. Welcome to Jerry World.

14.San Diego- San Diego fans were probably feeling a bit good about themselves after starting the year 2-0 and just breezing thru Tennessee. Lost in all of that though might have been a dose of reality that could have been served by remembering the victory over the Raiders was aided greatly by the lack of a long snapper for the Silver and Black. Fear not though, the reality check was delivered loud and clear by Matt Ryan and the Falcons this past Sunday afternoon. It will be very interesting to see how they bounce back from this on the road against Kansas City.

15.Pittsburgh- This might be a little bit high, and might be entirely on reputation alone. In fact, I’m positive it is. It is based completely on the fact that I expect them to turn it around, at any time, meaning, I wouldn’t want to play them this week. Wait, nobody does. Perfect. Quick little question though, on what opponent did both Denver and Oakland post their highest scoring game in the young season? If you said Pittsburgh, you win the grand prize. The Steelers defense has been among the leagues worst, particularly against the passing game. Not having Ryan Clark against Denver, okay, I’ll grant them that. But they also got to face the Mark Sanchez led Jets aerial…..we won’t call it an assault, so…..yeah, you get the point, and then the Raiders. And they still rank so poorly. Pittsburgh doesn’t want to admit it, and argues they will use it for motivation, but that defense plain and simple, is old.

16.New York Jets- This team is 2-1? Please, someone explain how. Oh, right, because Miami absolutely had no interest in winning last week, at least kicker Dan Carpenter didn’t. I should punish the Jets more for the win they barely eeked out, but I’ll let them get by on the fact they’ve won two of three games. They haven’t been very good on offense or defense, and their advantage on special teams comes mostly due to Carpenter’s struggles on Sunday. I guess moving Joe McKnight to cornerback is going to solve everything, right? And remember the last high profile passer to struggle with a 50% completion percentage, well, at least you might get 1,000 yards rushing from him. So, I mean if the quarterback can’t hit half his passes, and can’t run, maybe a change there might not be the worst thing.

17.Buffalo- Oh, Buffalo, why did you have to lay that egg in week one? I wanted so much to give you guys a lot of love, but that 48-20 beat down won’t just disappear. Beat New England this week, and then we’ll see what happens. The Bill have recovered nicely, and have discovered that no team in football has a better trio of backs. Some may have thought Tashard Choice is only here because of his relationship with Chan Gailey. No, it’s because he’s a good running back.

18.Detroit- This team reminds me more and more of the early 90s Falcons. They can fling it all over the place with a cannon arm at quarterback, they have big time talent at the receiver position, and a couple backs who can make some plays. But they can’t run when they have to, and they can’t stop a soul to save their life. Consider the Rams and Titans have combined for 64 points against them. Against their other four opponents they’ve combined for 63. Their offense is good enough that they can compete. Good enough to make the playoffs in this improved division? Don’t think so.

19.Philadelphia- It was once said if you turn the ball over, you lose, that simple. Don’t tell the Eagles that. And certainly don’t tell Michael Vick this. He can talk all he wants about his renewed work ethic, and his film study, and his attention to detail. Shut it Michael. He is still reckless with the football, can’t make adjustments at the line, and doesn’t read defenses well. Now, can he win football games? Absolutely. But not when his coach insists on him playing in an offense that ultimately requires quarterbacks that are none of those three things. As long as Andy Reid insists Vick can be a pocket passer, the turnovers will continue, and the losses will soon mount. Vick flourished in Atlanta with the support of a strong running game and an offense built around his talents, even if he didn’t work at them. Maybe it’s Andy Reid’s ego, I don’t know, but he’s mismanaging a dynamic playmaker, and perhaps writing out his own death certificate as Eagles head coach. I mean, for Pete’s sake, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have been more valuable with their legs this season.

20.Miami- Ryan Tannehill may be in over his head, but he’s not so submerged that Miami can’t wind up a solid football team. They play good defense, and despite giving their rookie quarterback next to nothing to throw to, should be competitive in most games they play. Most games they play won’t be a season opener on the road against a Super Bowl favorite. The Dolphins schedule is ridiculously manageable all the way thru November. There’s a possibility when they play the Patriots in December, they’ve put themselves in the playoff discussion.

21.Tampa Bay- So the Buccaneers have apparently gone from an idiot who had no idea what he was doing (Raheem Morris), to a meat head who wants to make sure everyone knows he knows what he’s doing, and how he’s going to do it. It appears to get as far away from the Morris disaster as possible, the Bucs could have possibly gone too far the other direction. The defense is good, and helps make them competitive, but bottom line, Josh Freeman is not. He still doesn’t get it. The only quarterbacks who have been of more harm to their teams thus far this year are Cutler, Brandon Weeden, and Vick, and thats because each have twice the turnovers Freeman does. Other than that, there may not be a worse starting quarterback in the league. For a fourth year starter, this cannot happen. When you’re dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and 30th in passing yards for yourself, in today’s game, you’re going to stink. This ranking is reflective entirely of the fact they’ve managed to still find a way to be competitive in their two losses.

22.Cincinnati- Sure, 2-1 is nice, but one score wins over the Redskins and Browns don’t equate to a whole lot of respect. Especially in your only real test, you were blasted out of the stadium by the Ravens 44-10. The offense, the passing game in particular, is exciting, and will score points, and will win shootouts with other mediocre to bad teams. But their defense, in particular against the run, won’t let them beat anybody that’s worth their salt. Their run defense isn’t just the worst run defense in football, it’s the worst by a wide, wide margin.

23.Indianapolis- Before the season a Colts fan tried to tell me this was going to be a very competitive team this season, and that a playoff berth may not be in the cards, a 6 or 7 win season that might leave them in the discussion into September was. I told him no way. Beating the Vikings by three, at home, and then losing at home to the Jaguars doesn’t dispel that theory any. Maybe he met competitive in the division, if so, well, competitive to avoid last place? Absolutely, it’s an absolutely horrible division. So, maybe in that sense, yes, they’re going to be competitive.

24.Washington- Will someone please tell Robert Griffin III that every team hits every quarterback? Or at least every quarterback they can get to. Why does he act shocked, or think we should be shocked, that teams are trying to hit him, hit him often, and hit him hard? If I hear one more post game press conference where he talks about how he’s “going to keep getting up”, I swear….Aside from that, he’s been as good as advertised, maybe better. The Redskins have yet to score under 28 points in a game this season. Unfortunately they’ve yet to allow less than 31.

25.Carolina- The discussion over Cam Newton’s leadership abilities not withstanding, there is plenty of cause for concern in Charlotte. Jonathan Stewart back on the field certainly helps, he’s shown again to be a far more effective rusher for the Panthers than DeAngelo Williams has, and that should benefit Newton, who has struggled to find the electricity and magic he had last season. Granted, there isn’t a lot to film wise to figure out Newton. Defenses would adjust, and easily. The question is, can he? This is where the dangers of taking a quarterback number one overall who only played one season, and for all intents and purposes had a very, very limited playbook.

26.Oakland- The come back win against the Steelers was nice, but it’d been better if it had been in the 1970s. As is, that wasn’t a very good Steelers team. What’s more telling is that in their first two games they were perhaps single handedly undone by losing a long snapper to injury, and were embarrassed by a Miami team that has questions galore on offense. Yep, same old Raiders right now. These next two games, at Denver, then at Atlanta, will make or break their season. Lose them both, and the wheels will be off before Halloween

27.New Orleans- I’m so giddy I can’t even talk about it.

28.Tennessee- The Tians are bad, really, really bad. And I’m really having second thoughts about them being here, but they did beat the Lions, so I have to give them credit for that. But if not for an incredible special teams day, that wouldn’t have happened. Remember, they lost their opening two games by a combined 72-23 score. Granted, those were expected playoff contenders New England and San Diego, but even still….. That’s not even remotely competitive. Another long year is coming in Nashville, and I won’t even talk about Chris Johnson.

29.St.Louis- Once again the offense is atrocious, and that’s having played two of the league’s worst defenses already. They play in a division where defense is put on a premium, and while theirs is good, it’s not at the level of the other three. Unfortunately, the other offer more promise to put up points against a quality defense than the Rams do. The Rams have done a poor job of protecting Sam Bradford, and giving him viable weapons to throw to. As a result, we can’t come down too quickly on him, but the clock is ticking.

30.Cleveland- This is perhaps the only offense that’s on the Rams level. It’s a shame too. Trent Richardson is a mighty fine football player at running back. Unfortunately, there are questions all over the rest of the offense. Despite all that, they are 0-3 but with their losses by an average of just six points per game. Does that mean we should expect a rebound? No, it’s a bad football team. But at least they’re worth watching a full game for.

31.Jacksonville- Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to get his legs under him. The Jaguars can only hope, because he literally is their only hope. You thought Obi-Wan Kenobi felt alone watching Leia’s message? Imagine Jones-Drew looking around the huddle.

32. Kansas City- So am I saying the worst team in football just beat the Saints? Yes, I am. Beating an 0-3 team in overtime means nothing, and right now, beating the Saints doesn’t add a whole lot of credibility either. Congratulations, you joined Carolina and Washington. What stands out more is the fact that they were blown out by both Atlanta and Buffalo. The performance in the first half against Atlanta, and the second half against New Orleans show you what this team can do. But what when you do that for just 1/3 of the season, you start to believe the other side of them is what you’re going to see most often.

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Late Night Drive, NFL Edition: Falcons Exorcise a Demon, Peyton is Back, Saints & Packers Disappoint, Reid’s Mishandling of Vick….

So week one of the NFL season is almost complete, so it’s time for the late night wrap up of the week that was. Unlike college football with a nationwide ranking system, and of course about 50 games a week, or more, the layout has to be a little bit different, so for week one, we’ll just go game by game.

Atlanta 40, Kansas City 24- In all fairness, this game was really 40-17, that was a garbage touchdown scored by Kansas City, which , fortunately with advancement in football statistics, won’t hardly count for anything at all in the grand scheme of things.

The Falcons were previously 0-3 in games against Kansas City in Arrowhead, having been outscored an absurd 108-23. Their 40 points posted Sunday afternoon nearly doubled what they’d scored in their previous three trips to Kansas City. Matt Ryan accounted for four touchdowns, including two to Julio Jones. The Ryan to Jones combination has the potential to rank among the most, if not THE most, lethal quarterback/receiver duos in the NFL.

The Falcons started slowly, but completely dominated the game in the second half. While the offense clicked all throughout the game, not even punting until just over 3:00 left in the game, the defense sputtered at the outset. However, adjustments were made at the half, and until the garbage time score with under :10 to go in the game, the defense threw a shutout in the second half, including the forcing of a couple of turnovers.

Of some concern for Falcons fans is the continued lack of production in the running game, especially Michael Turner. Only 32 yards coming on 11 carries, with 11 coming on one run. Yeah, your math tells you that’s 10 carries for 21 yards. That’s not good. I think however this coaching staff is smart enough to realize this team no longer goes as Michael Turner goes, it goes as Matt Ryan goes.

Despite that though, no question about it, Atlanta has to feel really, really good about itself right now, as Matt Ryan finally won a season opener on the road. It was also the second most road points scored (45 vs San Francisco in 2009) by the Falcons in the Matt Ryan era. Next Monday night’s home opener for Atlanta against the Broncos just became very, very interesting.

For Kansas City, injuries and suspension hurt their defense, but giving up 40 points at home, in your home opener, and season opener, just shouldn’t be happening. They’ll get a chance to get back on track in Buffalo next week, another team who gave up over 40 points to being the season. The offense moved the ball quite effectively in the first half, but three turnovers were just too much to overcome for Kansas City who saw Sunday night that taking the division from Denver will not be easy.

Denver 31, Pittsburgh 19- What a huge win it was for Denver. And really, it had little to do even with who the opponent was, or what the final score was, what mattered was how Peyton Manning played. Well, I don’t think quarterback is going to be any worry whatsoever in Denver as the season rolls forward.

Manning seemed to have a solid connection already with his new toys, Eric Decker, and Demaryius Thomas, as well as old friend Brandon Stokely. Manning, once allowed complete control and command of the offense in the no huddle, looked every bit like the Peyton Manning we last saw in Indianapolis. The difference he brings to this offense as opposed to Tim Tebow is staggering. Any Tebow fan who argues this team isn’t light years better with Manning seriously needs to consider therapy. Manning went 19 of 26 for 256 yards a couple of scores, and you figure he’s only going to get better as the season goes on.

However, if there is a reason to temper the excitement, it is that the Steelers were banged up on defense, and it is that the Steelers season ended last year, to Denver, with Tim Tebow at quarterback even.

The Steelers just aren’t quite what they were. They cannot protect the passer, and they can’t just line up and run right at you. They have weapons on offense, but without a decent offensive line, it’s hard to consistently use them. Defensively, I’m sorry, when James Harrison and Ryan Clark aren’t suiting up for your defense, against a Peyton Manning led offense, it’s going to make a huge difference.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this game was presence of Georgia Tech and Georgia. Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas each scored touchdowns, while Jonathan Dwyer had one called back on replay. Dwyer throughout the game exhibited toughness and an ability to finish runs with authority. Behind that offensive line, the Steelers will need that. Furthermore, former Yellow Jacket Keith Brooking saw the field for the Broncos, and Drew Butler, a product of Georgia was the Steelers punter.

Washington 40, New Orleans 32– Kansas City wasn’t the only team who allowed someone to come into their building and put 40 points on them on opening day. But at least they allowed a veteran team who has been to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons to do it. The Saints allowed a team with just three playoff appearances in the last 19 seasons to come in and do it.

Since 2008, the Redskins have ranked 28th, 26th, 25th, and 26th in the NFL in scoring. So what do they do in week one against the Saints? Explode for 464 yards and 40 points in knocking off the Saints in the Superdome, which is absolutely no small task.

Obviously Robert Griffin III took the early lead in the, Griffin vs Luck, battle, but this was about more than just outperforming the only player drafted ahead of Griffin in the 2012 draft. This was about Robert Griffin looking like he’d been doing this at this level for years. He got off to a blistering start, cooled for a stretch, and then picked up his play again to ice the win late as the Saints attempted to mount a comeback. Griffin went 19 of 26 for 320 yards with a couple scores, as well as 42 yards on the ground. Perhaps even more importantly? No interceptions and he was only sacked once.

A nice surprise for the Redskins though was the emergence of Alfred Morris. Coming out of camp and the pre-season, nobody seemed to have any idea what Mike Shannahan’s plan of attack would be at the running back positions. Morris got 28 carries and came up just shy of the century mark, as his debut was overshadowed by Griffins.

The Redskins defense played well too, though you might think allowing 32 points says otherwise. Then you remember it was the New Orleans Saints, at home, so really, as long as the defense allows less than the offense scored, they played well.

For the Saints, you wonder how quickly this will squelch the talk of how the Saints will be just fine without their coaches and that the still looming Bounty Gate won’t affect them. Perhaps the defense needs those extra incentives to go out and actually stop people.

New Orleans got down early and basically had to become one dimensional, but still, ten total rushing attempts? I don’t care that Drew Brees is at quarterback, that’s not going to get it done, ever, against anyone in the NFL.

And while the Panthers did not look good in their opener, the way Griffin carved up the Saints defense, New Orleans can’t exactly sleep well knowing that Cam Newton awaits them next week in Charlotte.

San Francisco 30, Green Bay 22- Alex Smith has heard all off-season that last year was a fluke, that the 49ers won in spite of him, that the team needed to add a quarterback to take that next step, yada yada yada. So what did Smith do? Go up to Lambeau field and take on the majority favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and walk away with a 30-22 victory over the Packers. Not only that, he did so by playing a key role, and playing brilliantly.

Smith went 20 for 26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, but perhaps most encouraging was that four completions a piece went to new receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. The addition of those two weapons to complement Michael Crabtree and what is still a solid running game makes the 49ers offense go from one that simply isn’t going to lose a game, to one that might be able to win a few when called upon.

The feeling now is that last year’s playoff game against the Saints where Alex Smith made play after play to take the victory may have been him taking that proverbial next step.

On the other side, much like the Saints, the Packers couldn’t establish anything resembling a running game. They only ran the ball 14 times, but of perhaps more worry is that Cedric Benson was the only person besides quarterback Aaron Rodgers to run the ball. Worse? He ran it 9 times for only 18 yards.

I know the league is indeed a passing league, and the Saints and Packers are two of the very best when it comes to throwing the ball around and scoring a lot of points. But football is still football, and you cannot be that one dimensional, and that incapable of running the football, and expect to win.

Green Bay will be traveling to Chicago next for a Sunday night game with a healthy, and improved Bears team. Chicago mimics the 49ers in a lot of ways, with perhaps a defense just a notch below, but an offense that’s arguably a couple notches higher with the addition of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.

Chicago 41, Indianapolis 21- Speaking of Chicago, their debut really couldn’t have gone any better from their standpoint. The defense harassed Andrew Luck into four turnovers and just 2 for 10 on 3rd downs. While the offense reeled of 428 yards, all the while making excellent use of some new toys (Marshall, Jeffrey and Michael Bush) and the return of some injured ones (Jay Cutler and Matt Forte) as the Bears were able to run the ball and throw it effectively.

Chicago may have been behind the Lions and Packers a year ago, but they served notice that this team is going to be in the mix, and a win next week over Green Bay would give the Bears a gigantic early edge. You talk about a big time football game……

Philadelphia 17, Cleveland 16- Seriously Michael Vick, four interceptions? Wait, I’m sorry, the blame there is going to the wrong person. Seriously Andy Reid, 56 pass attempts from Michael Vick? You do know you have LeSean McCoy in your backfield, correct? It’s great that Vick was able to lead the team back down the field late for the winning touchdown. But it’s not great that Vick had to lead the team down the field late for a winning touchdown against the Browns.

Reid’s handling of Vick is mind boggling, to say the least. Vick has never been, and never will be, a pocket passer. You’re going to have a lot of drives stall when you throw 27 incomplete passes, it’s as simple as that. Further more, the majority of Vick’s injuries in his career have not occurred when he’s running around doing his thing with his legs, but rather when he’s asked to stand in the pocket and abuse the punishment of guys being able to line up their hits on Vick. Barry Sanders rarely got hurt, despite the massive work load he shouldered. Why? Because nobody ever got a clean shot on Sanders because of his elusiveness and quickness. The same holds true for Vick. When he’s standing stationary in the pocket, that’s when he’s most vulnerable. If Reid doesn’t realize this soon, this season may be over soon for the Eagles, and so might Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia

Detroit 27, St. Louis 23- Don’t worry Matt Stafford, I see you too. I won’t let Vick take in all the accolades for throwing the ball to the wrong team too many times and being forced to engineer a late comeback against a vastly inferior opponent. Stafford threw three interceptions but got things together just enough at the end to avoid what would have been an ugly, ugly loss to the Rams.

I heard Tom Jackson say tonight that as a quarterback, what matters most is being able to lead a team to victory regardless of how bad you’ve played all game. Well, if they didn’t play so bad all game, they wouldn’t have to lead a team from behind for a victory, now would they?

New England 34, Tennessee 13- Pay attention Green Bay. Pay attention New Orleans. This is how you win with an elite quarterback and a team that likes to throw the football around. You still establish a running game. Steven Ridley got 21 carries, more than Saints and Packers running backs combined, and ran for 125 yards as New England cruised past the Titans.

Bad news for the Titans was Jake Locker leaving the game with an injury, though, I don’t think at this point it really makes that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Tennessee was just clearly overmatched by a good football team.

Minnesota 26, Jacksonville 23- In what was perhaps the one game that most featured two teams who are mirror images of each other, it ended as it should have, in overtime.

Both teams have been linked to Los Angeles, both teams had a question about how much playing time their elite running back would play, and both have second year quarterbacks who struggled as rookies at the helm.

For today, Christian Ponder outplayed Blaine Gabbert, and Adrian Peterson outplayed Maurice Jones-Drew as the Vikings got off to a 1-0 start while the Jaguars joined the Colts and Titans at 0-1 in the AFC South in what is already promising to be the worst division in football.

Houston 30, Miami 10- Speaking of that worst division in football, there is absolutely no reason for the Houston Texans not to repeat as division champs, and they quietly went out and took care of business against the Dolphins. The formula was simple, play really good defense, let Matt Schaub be effective, ride Arian Foster and let Andre Johnson do his thing. As mentioned, a division title should be an absolute breeze for the Texans.

New York Jets 48, Buffalo 28- In the game that reminds us again that pre-season doesn’t mean anything, the team that couldn’t score all exhibition season, suddenly couldn’t not score. Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech hauled in two touchdown passes from Mark Sanchez as the Jets made a loud, and emphatic statement.

C.J. Spiller will likely take the award as player fantasy players most wish they had started. The Clemson product took over when Fred Jackson left with an injury and ran for 169 yards, including a 56 yard touchdown scamper. For a Bills team that seriously believed they were ready to jump to the next level of playoff contender, the blowout loss is a serious blow to the confidence. Chan Gailey better get things turned around quickly as next week Gailey gets to face another another wide receiver he recruited while at Georgia Tech as Calvin Johnson and the Lions are next on the schedule.

Arizona 20, Seattle 16- If you wanted to watch good offense, you probably would have had more luck watching the first half of the Georgia Tech/Virginia Tech game last week. No, seriously. The two teams combined to barely top 500 yards of offense. However, the Arizona Cardinals may have finally found a quarterback, though not at all in the manner I’m sure they expected. When John Skelton went out with a bad ankle sprain, former starter, then banished to a backup Kevin Kolb entered the game. Kolb went 6 of 8 and engineered the go ahead drive for the Cardinals. Arizona played solidly down the stretch a year ago, and if they can get remotely solid quarterback play, they might be able to sneak into wildcard contention considering the weakness of Seattle and St. Louis and the potential for four division wins right there.

Tampa Bay 16, Carolina 10- So this is the Panthers team people were talking about possibly being the spoiler of the Falcons/Saints rivalry and displacing the two of them atop the division? Yeah, okay. Carolina ran the ball 13 times, and got just 10 yards. No, they did not have Jonathan Stewart, but they did have DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton, and that was all they could muster against Tampa Bay? Not a good sign, at all.

Tampa displayed the toughness that is expected from a Greg Schiano coached team and found a way to a gritty win. If Carolina is going to challenge for the division, they’re going to need to go win some surprise road games, and Tampa seemed one of the most winnable on the schedule. Now they get to come home to New Orleans, where it’s assured that one of the two will be 0-2, and you know how likely it is an 0-2 makes the playoffs.

So yes, it’s only been one week, and even this week isn’t done, as we get two games on Monday night. For some teams, there were some major disappointments, while others excelled, as is to be expected. What will be key is how those faced with adversity or major questions respond in week two, and how those who looked the part of a contender handle that success.

MNF picks:

Ravens over Bengals

Chargers over Raiders

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Saints Ripe For an Upset??

Maybe this is wishful thinking, maybe it’s lunacy, maybe it’s both. I like the chances Seattle has in this one.

The loss of Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas is huge for the Saints. Do you really want Reggie Bush trying to take advantage of this run defense? Do you want to hitch your wagon to him as a number one running back? I would think not.

I understand that they do have Drew Brees, and a fantastic passing attack. However, also recognize that in the past few weeks, as they’ve gone 1-2, teams have really been able to get after and bother Drew Brees with a ton of pressure. Expect Seattle to do it too.

While I think Baltimore, Atlanta, and Tampa possess much more talent and speed on defense than Seattle does, a couple of factors could help balance this out. One, the injuries to the running backs obviously factor in, and it also matters in blitz protection and pick-up, and could force some more max protect packages. Two, the weather doesn’t promise to be very befitting a high octane down field passing attack. It’s expected to be about 40 degrees and raining. New Orleans should be glad it’s not the 8 pm game as the rain will become snow. Three, the crowd noise. There were some pre-snap issues in the game at the Dome for the Saints, and Quest Field can absolutely be loud enough to cause some in this one.

There is the other matter though of how the heck the Seahawks are supposed to score. The Saints defense is actually probably better than it was last year, just sans the turnovers. Seattle can be apt to turn the ball over though, and in poor weather conditions, we’ll see how it goes.

The Seahawks would be wise I think to use Justin Forsett more often. Marshawn Lynch really just doesn’t offer much of anything at the running back position. At least with Forsett, you have a chance for the big play. People were clamoring after the Baltimore game that the weakness in the Saints defense was exposed. Horsecrap. The Saints run defense is not a weakness, in fact, it’s been pretty good.

Another tidbit with that run defense, that should absolutely go into the play calling for the Seahawks is that the Saints only allow opponents to succeed on 40% of short yardage running situations, best in the league. Playoff football comes down to inches, to the little things, the Saints ability to stop people from running the ball for first downs in short yardage situations, especially in inclement weather, could be vital.

So, what I’m saying is given all the circumstances and conditions surrounding this game, I don’t expect a lot of points. I expect the scoring to be rather low, which in a playoff game like this, in this type of crowd environment in this type of weather, the key will be special teams.

And here is where the Seahawks may have the edge. While on paper, the Saints hold a rather distinct edge it would appear on both offense and defense (though less so with the injuries in the backfield), the Seahawks hold a very distinct edge in special teams. It could be argued the difference between the two special teams units is as gaping as the difference between each offense or defense.

The Saints special teams were borderline bad. The Seahawks were an elite unit.

Leon Washington has a chance to make a big difference in this game. Seattle’s kick return unit was the second best in the league this season, whereas New Orleans kickoff coverage unit ranked merely 16th. The difference is less so in the punting facet of the game, but the kick return unit for Seattle could prove important when it comes to answering any New Orleans scores. Nothing changes momentum like big special teams plays, or back breaking returns, and with this Seattle crowd, a big play early by the ‘Hawks return game could really give the team, and crowd, some major life.

The key might be hitting a big special teams play early, using some of that momentum and energy to hang around the game a bit. Because if it’s close towards the end, who knows what can happen? That’s what playoff football is about.

I’m going way, way, way out on the limb and taking Seattle. But alas, it’s probably more hoping for Seattle, as I’d much rather see them in Atlanta next Saturday.

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Thoughts From Last Night

1. The defense, long considered our achillies heel, played outstanding. The offense, we should trust, will come around, they’ve been too good and have too many players. But our defense was flying around the ball, and tackling well (everyone but Drew Brees of course), and making life rather miserable for Brees. Yes, Brees put up really good numbers against the blitz, but he made some pretty ridiculous plays himself to do that. Those were plays most quarterbacks don’t make, and on most days, I’m not sure Brees doesn’t make. We just about got to him so many times last night, you have to like that formula. If our defense can turn out performances like that, I like our chances going forward.

2. Did we really want to have to beat the Saints three times this year? That’s a tall task. Has anyone ever beaten a defending Super Bowl champion three times in one year? It’s highly unlikely. Do we want to have that task staring us down in our first home playoff game in six years?

3. How many teams are really going to be able to come in here and win a game? How many quarterbacks can handle this crowd noise in this building? Do you really think Michael Vick can orchestrate the offense as well with this noise and this atmosphere like he can in Philadelphia at home? Jay Cutler? The easily rattled Jay Cutler? Drew Brees played well, and yet even in playing well, it wasn’t that well. There were huge mistakes too. And I’m not sure Brees can even come in here and win twice.

4. We learned our secondary can hold up okay in one on coverage, or while we are blitzing. Yes, Brees completed a ton of passes, but as mentioned before, he made some ridiculous plays that 9 times out of 10 nobody in the league can make. There were a lot of completions, for very little gain. If the guys in the secondary tackle, this approach works. Make a team go 10 or 12 plays for a touchdown. Odds are good, they won’t be able to. They’ll commit a penalty, or turn the ball over, which the Saints did a lot of both. The strategy worked perfectly, well, until the end that is. I’ll gladly let a guy complete 9 of 11 passes for 65 yards if those two incompletions are turnovers. That’s a trade-off I’ll make any day of the week. I’m curious to see how many blitzes were called on that final drive by the Atlanta defense though that allowed the go ahead score. Our strategy was to make the Saints patiently move the ball down the field without the benefit of the big play. It worked the entire game, until the end, so I’m curious if we stopped blitzing as much at that point.

5. Teams with chips on their shoulder and something to prove become even more dangerous. Apparently ESPN has forgotten that the Falcons are 12-3, in first place, can still be the one seed if they simply beat the worst team in the league at home, and BEAT the Saints earlier this year in New Orleans. Now, suddenly, after a three point loss to a great football team, in a great game, the Falcons are frauds, and overrated, and exposed. Okay. Tell them that. Tell this team they are nobodys. Good. They like it that way.

See you in January.

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Notes From Football Outsiders Week 2 Ratings

The Packers and Falcons have been, overall, the two best teams in the league over the course of two weeks. That’s really not surprising, considering how utterly dominant both were last week in easy victories. As the year goes on, this may or may not hold true, but I thought the numbers from the first two weeks might help tell us which 2-0 teams are for real, and which 0-2 teams should be just fine.

Green Bay is just about everybody’s darling, and it’s tough to argue with what they’ve done so far this year. The only chink in the armor so far has been their run defense, but that’s largely due to Michael Vick and Michael Vick alone, coming on in the 2nd half against them. So I won’t hold that too much against them (though next to last in the league never looks good). A lot of people picked Green Bay to be a legit Super Bowl contender, and there’s been nothing so far to indicate those prognostications were wrong.

The Falcons being number two might come as a surprise, except when you look at what that defense did to Tennessee, and they way the Steelers won on the road in Nashville, that Pittsburgh loss looks less and less disappointing. The Birds are 6th in offense, and 7th in both defense and special teams. The Falcons offensive ranking definitely benefits when its adjusted for opponent, and with only two opponents played so far, it will take a few weeks before this really rounds into shape. Early returns though are the Duntae Robinson signing to be worth it. The Falcons pass defense has been really good. The run defense is pretty far down the list, but that is basically due to two runs for touchdowns of 130 plus total yards.

What might be surprising is that Tampa is 3rd right now, benefiting from a strong early season defensive showing. They sure will get a great test this week with Pittsburgh. They’ve only beaten Cleveland and Carolina, and neither overly impressive. Still though, this speaks well for this teams chance to be competitive. What’s disconcerting is their offensive line. It’s been average at best, in pass protection, and absolutely horrible when it comes to the ground game. Over 1/4 of their running plays have been stopped at, or behind the line of scrimmage. The good news is they were the last place team in the South a year ago, and we know how that goes.

The AFC East, as expected, looks brutal. Miami, the Jets, and Patriots all come across in the top ten. I’m really looking forward to the Jets/Dolphins game this week. Miami could send a real statement by getting off to a 3-0 start, and if that’s the case, the Jets really can’t afford to be 1-2. Without Revis to put on Marshall, things could get interesting.

Houston has been catching everyone’s eye, and rightfully so. But they only come in at tenth, due to the fact that their defense has arguably been the worst in football so far this year. Manning and McNabb have both shredded them (interesting how far down the rankings Houston’s pass defense is, and how much Atlanta’s has risen). The Texans surely will remain and compete thanks to that offense that averages nearly a field goal per drive. But unless that defense gets shored up, can we really expect them to challenge for much more?

The Seahawks are playing good defense, and really good special teams. Golden Tate could also be used more offensively to provide a boost there. Do not at all rule them out of the post-season, especially since the 49ers seem dependent on beating themselves every way possible.

Pittsburgh and Tennessee are 1 and 2 defensively, and that’s not a surprise, at all. The Steelers run defense has been absolutely sick this year, whereas the Titans pass defense has been tops in the NFL. Unfortunately, only the Bills average fewer yards per drive than these two. No team in football has a worse successful drive rate than the Steelers, and nobody in the league scores fewer touchdowns per drive. The difference between those two teams is that the Steelers know good quarterback play is on the horizon. The Titans? Not so much. Pittsburgh might be scary, scary good this season.

Baltimore’s offense has got to get it together. They are next to last in points per drive, and 2nd to last in terms of how often they turn the ball over per drive. Their defense is good, but it’s not good enough to make up for that kind of horrible production, as we saw against Cincinnati. If their defense can’t wreak absolute havoc and force turnovers, they might be in trouble. Joe Flacco has seemingly taken several steps back. Perhaps it is just an apparition, and he’ll right the ship. He better, because they are going to have a difficult time beating teams who take care of the football if they don’t.

The Chiefs have been mid-pack on offense and defense. It’s special teams where they’ve shined, and it’s where they will have to continue to shine to probably seriously contend for a playoff spot. If Matt Cassell could pick his play up a bit, that would go a long way to making this team more legit. The running game is solid, but would be helped if there was something resembling a threat via the passing attack.

The Eagles are probably in more trouble than people are willing to say, even with Vick and his talents under center. The defense has been terrible, and it’s been bad against the run and pass. The offensive line is in shambles. A bad defense and bad offensive line means bad things. The offensive line appears to be faring better in run blocking, but that’s rather misleading. A ton of the Eagles rushing yards have come in the open field, and have been courtesy of runs of 10+ yards. The line hasn’t exactly done a good job of moving defensive lines off the ball. And with pass protection, well, no team has been worse.

Cowboy fans need not panic. They may be 0-2, but they still rank mid-pack, and they have clearly played poorly these first two games. This team still oozes with the potential to be very good. The Cowboys would be better served to run the ball more. They do it well, and if they did, they could increase the number of explosive plays in the running game (they do have Felix Jones back there), as they rank near the bottom of the league. Only the Saints have been less effective at making plays out in the open field (and I find it shocking that teams with Reggie Bush and Felix Jones rank at the bottom of this category). Defensively there could still be some concern with Dallas, it’s almost in the bottom fourth, and it’s largely due to ineffective pass defense. If their pass rush can’t get there, quarterbacks are having way too much fun against this secondary.

The Saints may be 2-0 right now, but they have not at all done it in the impressive manner with which they played last year. The offense has been good, but not spectacular, and just lost Reggie Bush (who I contend is still overrated, but that’s for another day). The defense though has had plenty of problems. Did you see San Francisco march all over them Monday night? This Falcons team is going to provide them a real test. The Saints seem to be getting knocked around a bit more, on both sides of the ball. Their run defense ranks 30th. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, In short yardage situations, the running game has been almost useless, converting on just 33% of their attempts. That’s bad.

Minnesota is 0-2 for a reason. Their offense stinks. Their defense stinks. And their special teams are just average. 16th in yards per drive, but only 29th in points per drive tells of a team who can’t put the ball in the endzone in the redzone. The good thing for the offense, is Sidney Rice, healthy, can definitely fix what ails them. The passing game has been downright terrible, and the offensive line isn’t completely to blame. On the other side of the ball, the pass defense has been pretty bad too. There’s still hope for this team, however, 0-2 Dallas looks in much better shape.

I don’t care what Donovan McNabb does, the Redskins defense better get better, and in a hurry. It’s bad all the way around. Granted, they did face the Texans offense, but they did so with a 17 point second half lead that they squandered. Yeah, the defense in D.C. is bad. Sure, the Skins are one 4th down stop away from being 2-0, but they are also some common sense by the Cowboys away from being 0-2. Don’t get your hopes up Redskins fans.

The Lions are indeed 0-2, but they’ve had a chance to win both their games, and rightfully won their opener against the Bears, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s a good sign for them is that they aren’t in the bottom fourth of either offense or defense. That’s improvement. The special teams are solid. This team isn’t going to the playoffs, but everyone who plays them better be ready to fight for 60 minutes. Give them one more off-season to address the offensive line (which is the worst run blocking line in the league thus far), and they may be okay.

Shocker, tell me if you heard this before. The Raiders are in the bottom 5 of the league, again. The offense is once against worthless, and the blame doesn’t go all on the offensive line. The running game has been solid, and the pass protection, while nothing to write home about, hasn’t been as bad as some. The change to Gradkowski definitely sparked some life into the offense. It will be interesting to see how they play the next couple of weeks. If only they had some wide receivers. And, well, maybe a run defense.

The Cardinals fall from grace is going to be a very, very rough one. Their quarterback situation is an absolute mess, and their special teams are horrible. Bad field position with a struggling quarterback is a bad, bad thing.

And surprise, surprise, the Bills are the worst team in football, and it’s a spot they will probably occupy all season long.

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